Interview in Speaking Tree, The Times of India.


Mohsin Bin Mushtaq Shah’s  poetry springs from a heart full of angst and insight, hope and love. He tells MONA MEHTA that Kashmir, to him, is a symbol of love, not hate.

He is a medical doctor by training, and a Sufi by inheritance and intuition. His poems caress you like a whiff of fresh air, cutting through the smog of mistrust and gloom in the Valley. Says Mohsin who lives in Srinagar, Kashmir,“My verses talk about two things: Kashmir, and love and tolerance.” He was in Delhi recently and recited his poems to an appreciative audience at the recently held Times Literary Festival. Mohsin believes that it is his duty to express his anguish and that of his people through his writings, whether in prose or poetry.

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MIr Sayyid Ali Hamdani (Ra) tried to spread the message of love and tolerance, and Mohsin too strives to do that through spontaneous verse, as in: ‘i exhume my heart in verses’

“There are three genres of poetry — one which talks about love of God – ishq e haqique; love of man — ishq e majazi and a third which states that only love of man can lead you to the love of God.This is my kind of poetry,”he says. The young man’s poems also address Kashmir, which is ‘no less than God’s poem itself ’.“As a poet it is my duty to write about the pain of Kashmir,” he says.

In Kashmir,Sufi poetry might have started with the Shaivite mystic Lalleshwari (Lal Ded) but some half a millennium since, sensitive poets like Mohsin are seeking to restore to the Valley all the love and longing for the Beloved that once enriched a culture of understanding and compassion.


Moses and the Shepherd.



“Ah! You just erred, brother. You will have to pray all that again.”  murmured a stranger as soon as Wali Meer turned his neck to say the final salutations upon his left shoulder, concluding evening Salah. Gowned in a full white Jubba and equally matching turban, with a face full of frizzy beard, grimaced befuddling smile and an occult enthusiasm to teach, this stranger stood looking at him. Wali Meer hushed in a humble slurry voice “Alas! I couldn’t realize that. But brother, please bless me with the pearls of wisdom, how did I err?”

“Pleasure will all be mine for explaining that to you” spieled the stranger, with an apparent eagerness and glow in eyes for being asked a question on religion. “Brother. You see. I noticed while you were in Sajud (prostration) that the thumb of your right foot was not in touch with the ground. That is a flaw and an undesirable action to commit.”

Wali Meer laughed and concluded the debate without saying a word other than a sarcastic “Touché.

The stranger left and Wali began to fret the strings of a discourse.

“Some people among us,” started Wali “are the most fortunate people, for they are certain of the belief that they are on the right path. Belief or a firm false belief, I shall not comment upon that. They look like ordinary people around but at the depth of their souls they think that they have an inherited duty for guiding you to the right path. Exhilarated for self appointed mission. What you know is true, fine, but what they know is the ultimate truth. And they are sure about it. I am drawn to pity that enlightenment and end-lightenment have no frontier. I shall now relate a beautiful story by the master Mewlana Rumi.”

Moses and the Shepherd.

Moses heard a shepherd on the road praying:

“Lord, where are you? I want to help you, to fix your shoes and comb your hair. I want to wash your clothes and pick the lice off.
“I want to bring you milk to kiss your little hands and feet when it’s time for you to go to bed.
“I want to sweep your room and keep it neat. God, my sheep and goats are yours. ”

“Who are you talking to?” Moses could stand it no longer.
“Only something that grows needs milk. Only some one with feet needs shoes. Not God!”

The shepherd repented and tore his clothes and sighed and wandered out into the desert.

A sudden revelation came then to Moses.

“You have separated me from one of my own.
“Did you come as a Prophet to unite, or to sever?
“I have given each being a separate and unique way of seeing and knowing and saying that knowledge.
“What seems wrong to you is right for him.

“What is poison to one is honey to someone else.
“Purity and impurity, sloth and diligence in worship, these mean nothing to me.
“I am apart from all that. Ways of worshiping are not to be ranked as better or worse than one another.
“It’s not me that’s glorified in acts of worship. It’s the worshipers!
“I don’t hear the words they say. I look inside at the humility.

“Forget phraseology. I want burning, burning. Be friends with your burning.
“Burn up your thinking and your forms of expression!
“Lovers who burn are another.

“Don’t scold the Lover. The “wrong” way he talks is better than a hundred “right” ways of others.
“When you look in a mirror, you see yourself, not the state of the mirror.
“The flute player puts breath into a flute, and who makes the music?
“Not the flute. The flute player!

“Whenever you speak praise or thanksgiving to Me, it’s always like this dear shepherd’s simplicity.”

from Rumi’s “Moses and the Sheperd”, translated by Coleman Barks.

{Published in the September 2012 issue of The Counsellor Magazine}